SSBM Championship Doubles Recap
With all the commotion in the Halo world over huge upsets in the Windy City, it was easy to lose sight of what was also a monumental Smash tournament. Last month in Anaheim, Ken and Isai cruised to an easy Finals victory in the Smash 2v2s, meeting little real resistance along the way. Nothing that happened thus far indicated that there would be any cracks in the steel of the reigning Doubles champions. Furthermore, no one could predict that they would suffer the same number of losses in just one weekend that they had experienced throughout their entire careers.

It was both unprecedented and unpredictable. The first loss came quickly at the hands of two Smashers who continue to leave their mark on the scene–Mew2King and KoreanDJ–who are both incredible Singles players, relying on the high-octane aggressive style of Fox. Both of these players went from relative obscurity to having a place in the limelight in MLG New York and each subsequent tournament. Now they are marking their domain and leading a new breed of Smashers to challenge some of the most experienced and dominant players to have ever graced the scene.

Azen and Chillin accomplished the impossible at MLG Chicago, going down in history as the first team to ever finish above Ken and Isai in Smash Doubles play.

When Teams got underway, KoreanDJ decided to split away from Fox and use Sheik as a support character for his partner’s Fox. Together they achieved success early, ousting the likes of the Midwest’s finest, Joe Bushman and Drephen. When they drew Ken and Isai, many expected a familiar result, but the crowd was instead treated to a refreshing change of scenery. Showing that their skill was not confined just to Singles, KoreanDJ and Mew2King meshed from the get-go the way few teams do. One of the most common problems in Doubles, even in the Championship Bracket, is the lack of team strategy and true synergy. Often, players just choose to follow another player for a match and attempt to break the battle down to two separate 1v1 fights. Mew2King and KoreanDJ were different–they were constantly aware of each other’s presence. It would be this awareness that proved vital in their match against Ken and Isai.

The 3-0 victory by KoreanDJ and Mew2King over Ken and Isai sent a shockwave through the venue, but more importantly, it sent a shock through Ken and Isai’s system. After that, Ken and Isai began to play with a new passion and aggressiveness, similar to what was witnessed earlier this year in New York after a loss to PC Chris and Wes. They knew they couldn’t afford to lose another set, but they were in for quite a fight through the Losers Bracket. Their first battle in the Losers Bracket was against PC Chris and King–a tough Falco and Jigglypuff combination. A narrow win that came down to the last stock for each player on the last game of the set allowed Ken and Isai to keep their hopes alive, if only for a moment.

After disposing of another strong Midwest team in Dope and Darkrain, Ken and Isai would demonstrate what years of teamwork and dedication allow them to do. Meeting up again with Mew2King and KoreanDJ in the Losers Bracket Finals, Ken and Isai displayed a resounding will to advance by defeating their opponents 6-0 for a final score of 6-3. The journey wasn’t over though, and the toughest battle lay ahead. Chillindude829 and Azen took second place at the 2005 Season Championships, but had yet to team together until MLG Chicago, due to Azen’s hiatus. To say that a Finals match between these two teams was unexpected would be inaccurate, considering the extensive histories that both of these teams can boast, but the Finals in the Windy City would shake up the Smash scene like never before. Ken and Isai would need to win two best-of-five sets to take the tournament–which whey very well may have done if not for some essential shine KOs and edge-guarding from Chillin alongside Azen’s character diversity and what turned out to be a rather potent Peach.

The first set looked like business as usual for Ken and Isai. While Azen and Chillin kept things close, Ken and Isai usually had stock leads moving into the end portion of each game. On more than one occasion, Chillin and Azen were caught with off-stocks and were unable to capitalize. Off-stock leads are very deceptive, especially late in the game, so when Ken and Isai found themselves on their last lives and Chillin and Azen had three stock between them, it simply became a matter of who would lose two stock first, because the third stock for Chillin and Azen would simply go to waste in a 2v1 situation. In the first set on Dream Land 64, after losing the off-stock lead and being forced into the 2v1 situation, Chillin decided simply to run off the stage and avoid the humiliation that Azen had faced in New York when Ken and Isai did a Grab Infinite on him.

Clearly not happy about settling for second place for the first time, expect Ken and Isai to come back with a vengence in Orlando.

Signs of a turn-around weren’t immediate, but they surfaced early in the second set. The first game was a nail biter, coming down to the last stock for each player. The match on Yoshi’s Story was more hectic and close-quarters than usual, so gauging just how the rest of the set would unfold would prove to be difficult until the following game. East Coast players have long been known to play only a few select, flat stages–namely Final Destination, Dream Land 64, and Pokemon Stadium. All these stages have similar features, such as open, flat ground to work with and to spread things out. However, just like the previous game, the victor of the match wouldn’t be known until the final moments, as neither team managed to pull a significant lead. Many times, Ken and Isai would get small stock leads where they each had high damage percentages, only to be foiled by Chillin’s well timed Up Smashes with Fox.

Ken and Isai’s team style is very unique and still has yet to be successfully reproduced. It relies heavily on each player’s ability to get to the other and help them out in times of need. Few people are better at this than Isai, and he is largely considered one of the best team players in Smash, always keeping and eye out and looking to help. What makes their team strong, though, is that each player is willing to do this, but, as it would appear, their weakness lies in the situations in which they cannot reach one other. In the second game, Azen used Peach and managed to keep Isai from helping Ken. This turned out to sway things heavily in Chillin’s favor. Chillin preferred facing Ken over Isai, but in normal situations Ken’s 1v1 skills would outweigh him. However, in Teams, whenever Ken headed over to help Isai, Chillin would be provided with opportunities not available normally. These opportunities allowed Chillin to land his Shine combos and crucial Up Smashes for KOs.

The final game came down to Dreamland 64, the same stage that the first set ended on. This was a different match up than the first set though, with Ken using Fox and Azen using Peach. The most important play came toward the end, with all of the players on their last stock. Azen managed to send Isai off the ledge and land a B-Air to edge-guard him. Ken, recognizing the problem, headed over to provide assistance, only to be repelled by Azen into Chillin. Meanwhile, Azen regained his position on Isai and pulled off the Edge Hog. Despite Ken’s valiant efforts, his Fox wasn’t able to sway the tide of the 2v1 fight, and he was forced to concede defeat.

Thus ended the longest running series of consecutive victories in Smash history, and one of the most monumental and long-standing records in all of gaming. Ken and Isai made sure to leave their mark though, and we can be sure that when Orlando rolls around in August they will return in full force. Azen and Chillin have succeeded where almost everyone had failed, and they owe it to the years of teaming with each other alongside their stupendous individual skill. This win will propel the East versus West rivalry even further and will spawn several other meetings in the future that will surely be just as riveting.

Smash 2v2 Finals Results

Set 1

Ken (Marth) & Isai (Sheik) [Final Destination] Chillin (Fox) & Azen (Marth)

Ken (Marth) & Isai (Sheik) [Yoshi Story] Chillin (Fox) & Azen (Marth)

Ken (Marth) & Isai (Sheik) [Pokemon Stadium] Chillin (Fox) & Azen (Falco)

Ken (Marth) & Isai (Sheik) [Dream Land 64] Chillin (Fox) & Azen (Falco)

Set 2

Ken (Marth) & Isai (Sheik) [Yoshi Story] Chillin (Fox) & Azen (Sheik)

Ken (Marth) & Isai (Sheik) [Final Destination] Chillin (Fox) & Azen (Peach)

Ken (Marth) & Isai (Sheik) [Pokemon Stadium] Chillin (Fox) & Azen (Falco)

Ken (Fox) & Isai (Sheik) [Rainbow Cruise] Chillin (Fox) & Azen (Falco)

Ken (Fox) & Isai (Sheik) [Dreamland 64] Chillin (Fox) & Azen (Peach)

SSBM Championship Singles Recap
With business looking as usual and Ken working his way to the Winners Finals, no one could have predicted that one of Smash’s greatest players would have a few off-games. Stating earlier on Saturday that he was “feeling a little sick”, Ken went into a slump after his first two wins against Chu Dat. In veteran style Chu capitalized on Ken’s mistakes and won a decisive Game 5. Ken then fell to the Losers Bracket to play against Mew2King.

Mew2King was coming fresh off a match against Azen, who had shaken things up with his return to the Pro Circuit. Azen entered Chicago with zero points, since he had yet to attend a tournament, but was easily a heavy favorite to make a run at Top 4. His most notable victory would be over the second seeded PC Chris, who entered the tournament the favorite to make the Finals and once again challenge Ken for the top spot. In previous tournaments as of late, after he returned from hiatus, Azen used mostly off-characters. These lower tiered characters like Luigi, Link, and Pikachu didn’t net him too many tournament wins, but he was always a contender even against some of the top players.

In Chicago, Azen made it clear that he wouldn’t be using these off-characters. In Pool Play he 4-stocked almost every opponent every game using Marth. He didn’t even break away from Marth until he faced stiffer competition later in the Championship Bracket on Sunday. When he did break away though, it wasn’t to his low-tier characters; he used a mix of Falco and Sheik to get things done. Against Mew2King though, Azen went all-Marth, and Mew2King made him pay. The difference-maker in the series between PC Chris and Mew2King is most easily described on Pokestadium. Here, PC Chris often found himself being combo’d on the platforms by Marth’s tilt attacks. While this is hard to avoid, it is possible, and Mew2King showed just how to do it. He was never caught in a combo on the platforms for longer than two hits. Mew2King defeated Azen soundly, setting up the Losers Bracket Finals match between himself and Ken.

After battling back through the Losers Bracket, Ken made an amazing comeback to overtake Chu Dat and once again claim the top spot in Smash Singles.

Ken also used Marth against Mew2King’s Fox. Ken’s Marth, however, plays a very different style from Azen’s. Azen prefers to play a close-up style and simple style, and is notorious for his Forward Smash edge-guarding. This move, when timed right, can be incredibly efficient and effective. The last aspect of Azen’s game that separates him from Ken is his use of the Charged B attack. This attack can be used very effectively in edge-guarding and has less recovery lag than the Forward Smash. However, all of these factors didn’t help Azen in his match-up against Mew2King, where his incomparable level of technical skill simply overwhelmed Azen at times.

Ken, however, managed to get past Mew2King by doing what he does best: combo’ing. Ken managed to land a few of his Ken combos during the series, as well as many double Forward Air chains. For Marth players, learning to double Forward Air is a key ability. This move is performed by short-hopping and doing two Forward slashes before you hit the ground and L-Canceling so you can keep the horizontal combo moving by either performing the same technique again or starting up something new. This different style seemed to throw Mew2King for a loop and he ended up dropping the series, despite having just played Azen’s Marth.

The Finals match between Ken and Chu Dat was placed on the main stage. For the set, Ken was Marth and Chu Dat was the Ice Climbers. Chu Dat, possessing the best Ice Climbers in the world, did all he could to defeat Ken the same way he had before. Ken appeared to have realigned himself after his earlier loss and wouldn’t let Chu Dat take advantage of him the way he had before. Chu Dat still played a magnificent tail end of the set, but ultimately the problematic match up between Marth and the Ice Climbers–and the incredible extent to which Ken knows Chu Dat’s game from playing together for about the last year–caught up with him. Ken took the Finals 4-1 in front of several hundred spectators who were all in awe at the technical ability of the two players.

With Chicago behind us now and Orlando fast approaching, MLG’s 2006 Pro Circuit is bursting with developing stories in the Smash world. Although Ken emerged victorious once more, the ranks just below him are white-hot with talent and competition featuring a number of new players and long-anticipated returnees. With just one more event before the hectic playoffs in New York, players are jockeying for position in an attempt to claim on of the eight spots to the national championship in Las Vegas. Be sure to stick around in the coming weeks as we continue to cover the aftermath of MLG Chicago and look forward to the next big shakedown in Orlando.